Saturday, June 25, 2011

New York Victory and Unfinished Business: Catholic Church Still Anything but a Welcoming Place

And as I sit on this glorious landing place (this in reference to my previous posting about Langston Hughes) for a while, and rest a bit, I open today's newspaper (metaphorically speaking, since I'm reading online), and I read the following from Alex Pareene at Salon

Despite the feeling of inevitability that's surrounded the issue in New York since Governor Andrew Cuomo took office and more or less promised to get it done, same-sex marriage could've easily failed -- and frequently seemed likely to -- up until the last possible moment. That last Republican vote often seemed like it'd never come. Archbishop Timothy Dolan tried to sabotage the vote with last-minute lobbying and an anti-gay marriage sermon at St. Patrick's Cathedral. But the good guys won, which is unusual in politics and unheard of in Albany.

And as I read this, I know there's still business to be done.   Since I, as a Catholic--and any other Catholic in the United States who cares about human rights for all, and about loving the gay brothers and sisters, mothers and father--somehow have to come to terms with this.

We have to come to terms with the fact that what we believe from the foundations of our souls--human rights for all, all-embracing love that reaches out, in particular to those on the margins--is what the leader of our national bishops' conference has opposed in this historic struggle.

We have to come to terms with the fact that, even now, on the mildest and "best" of Catholic blog sites discussing these matters, there's either total silence--about a human rights victory that brings jubilation to millions of Americans--or one has to contend with lying claims that the Catholic church loves, loves, loves its gay chillun and has never done a single thing to harm them.

Claims that are so laughable in the face of what the leader of the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference has just done, as he cajoled, fulminated, and threatened, as he and his henchman Bishop DiMarzio lectured Republican legislators behind the scenes: claims so laughable that one wonders why any Catholic with any integrity at all would try to make them with a straight face.

Even as we rest a bit and celebrate, we still have to contend with this legacy, with what it means.  With what it means for a church that its chief leaders have not only opposed an extension of human rights and the welcoming embrace of those on the margins, but tried with all their might to prevent a democratic body from voting on these matters.  And who, the moment the marriage equality bill had passed, as celebration broke out across the U.S. among those who recognize this event as a significant victory for equality (and love), issued a statement noting how "deeply disappointed and troubled" they are by this human rights breakthrough.

Bishops, Christian leaders, people who want to teach us that everyone has human rights and that God includes everyone in God's all-encompassing embrace: bishops working against human rights and love in this historic struggle, and working hand in hand with groups like the National Organization for Marriage, whose sole reason for existence is to foster hatred and suspicion of a stigmatized minority group.

Catholics who care--who care about human rights, about those on the margins, about their brothers and sisters who are gay--are going to have to start figuring out what to do with this legacy.  And they're going to need to start figuring this out now, even as we celebrate.  

Because the problem Catholics are facing now is not one that can be deferred to the distant future: the problem of what the church has become, under its current leaders, is a here-and-now problem.  The problem of what the Catholic church now appears to be in the eyes of a large number of citizens (as well as the eyes of many Catholics) is already here: a growing number of people throughout the nation now see the Catholic church as the enemy and tormentor of those who are gay and lesbian, as an organization officially dedicated to removing human rights from a marginalized minority.  Not as what it professes to be, when it talks about its mission to save and to love . . . .

Catholics are going to have to start figuring out now what to do about the fact that their church has for some years now deliberately (through its top leaders) turned itself into an instrument of hate and abuse, when it comes to a stigmatized group of citizens whom an increasing number of other citizens now see as fully human and deserving of the same range of human rights everyone else has.  Catholics are going to have to figure out what to do about the fact that, for an ever growing number of people (including a majority of Catholics), the bishops appear clearly to be lying when they say that they do not promote or want discrimination against their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Because I'm here to tell you, the Catholic church is anything but a welcoming place for those who are gay and lesbian.  And it doesn't take a fool to see that.  And lying about it, and pretending, aren't going to get us far down the road to a solution to it.

Just saying, as I continue sitting on my landing, musing and hoping.  And thanking, in my heart, those who actually have put their lives on the line and who have risked scorn and condemnation to make the victory in New York possible.  Who include--and what a shock! what a tragedy, for anyone who cares about the Catholic church--almost no Catholic leaders anywhere in the U.S.

Instead, the opposite . . . .

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